Confidence is a key factor in not making the errors that can separate winning and losing says England fly-half Owen Farrell

London (AFP) - The fine line between winning and losing can boil down to confidence England rugby co-captain Owen Farrell told The Guardian on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old fly-half – who has just completed a degree in management and leadership – said this was behind England’s largely disappointing year in 2018 which saw them tamely surrender their two year reign as Six Nations champions and lose a series in South Africa.

However, they ended the year on a brighter note, beating South Africa, World Cup hosts Japan and a weak Australia and losing narrowly to world champions New Zealand.

“Sometimes it can be about confidence,” said Farrell.

“You lose a couple of tight ones and things get hard.

“Sometimes you can be too desperate to win games and therefore you play on the edge and do things you wouldn’t normally do.”

Farrell, who appears to have beaten off rival George Ford for the first choice fly-half spot after a spell of playing inside centre while the latter took the playmaking role, says confidence shows itself in a team’s discipline or lack of it.

“Nobody wants to give penalties away but when your confidence is low, and you’re a bit too desperate, you can’t help but do that,” he said.

However, Farrell says scraping a win as England did in their opening November Test, 12-11, against South Africa – when he made a contentious tackle at the end on Andre Esterhuizen that went unpunished by the referee – can be a game changer in that department.

“When you get a couple of wins the confidence returns, probably without you knowing it,” said Farrell.

“You trust (yourself) subconsciously that bit more. This helps under pressure.

“When that pressure comes in the heat of a game, and you need to keep your composure, and not give a penalty away, not step out of line, that’s where it counts the most.”

Farrell, a four-time Premiership champion and two-time European Champions Cup victor with Saracens, believes perversely losing can also be a catalyst for transforming ones fortunes.

“The main thing for me is that a loss offers a lot,” he said.

“It probably shouldn’t be this way but a loss probably opens more doors for you than a win.

“To really buy into something, and to take it to another level, you sometimes need a loss.

“We had that last year at Saracens when we lost seven on the bounce.

“We suffered a big loss in Europe against Leinster in a quarter-final but we opened up, came back strong and it allowed us to play like we did for the rest of the season.” Saracens finished as English champions two months later.